For the third time in fifteen months I was stuck in a J. Loren touring vehicle. But this time was different. I felt like Tantalus. I was back in my home town and I could see our destination from inside the lifeless Pandora’s Box. A hundred yards away, Hot Wired awaited us. But because Pandora’s Box weighs tons, it may as well have been miles. And this time I don’t mind saying, “I’m to blame.”
Almost two weeks ago, we were ahead of schedule. We had most of our supplies ordered. The various teams that I’d organized were each hard at work fulfilling their portions of the project. The plan was to finish gutting Pandora by June 30th and have her transmission shy of being road-ready so that she could make the two and a half hour trip to Jonesboro for the electrical work and AV installation.
Then, the [Mississippi] river met us. Eight straight days of downpours. Flooding and daily power outages. This took away our ability to get any significant work done. Rickie was able to squeeze in several hours of breaking her down, but we were basically at a standstill until the weather broke.
However, I believe when you give someone your word, you deliver on it, ‘come hell or high water.’ In this case, we’ve had a mild summer, so we only had to deal with the second half of that cliché. Floods will not stop us from being done on time! She was gutted enough to get her to the Hotwired team; she just needed a new exhaust system and some tires to safely make the trip.
The tires were acquired at cost, straight from a wholesaler, and purchased mafia style. I was told to drive to a car dealership in Mississippi and pick up an unmarked dealership truck. Drive it to a warehouse at the Memphis International Airport where the tires were located. Pay with cash only, of course. The transaction went down smoothly. The tires were shuffled into my vehicle and transported to Jackson to be put on Pandora’s Box.
A simple carjack wasn’t enough to safely get her off the ground, so a forklift was used to change the tires. While she was off the ground, the existing muffler was cut-off to allow me to get her to the Hotwired guys quickly, so they would have enough time to do their job before the bunks will be installed.
Before I set off to Jonesboro, Trevor advised me to manually shift the gears. This way we could stretch every last mile out of the existing transmission. So I made away with what we’d made… but I didn’t make it very far.
At almost the same spot where I wasn’t sure if Uncle Pervy was going to make it, Pandora decided she didn’t want to go any further. I dropped her into first gear… nothing. Second… nothing. Overdrive… nothing. At this point I decided I better throw her in reverse and at least get off the highway… but reverse wouldn’t work either. I couldn’t help but smile. Seriously, I thought the entire situation was incredibly humorous. What were the odds of the same thing happening to me twice, in practically the exact same spot? I called Trevor and told him to come get me. About five minutes later I put her in first gear; it caught, and I was off and running. I called Trevor and told him that unless something crazy happened, I would at least make it to Memphis and try to get the rest of the way to Jonesboro the next morning. When the time came, I charted my route carefully. Her turn signals don’t work and she’s not properly tagged. I wanted to avoid as many turns as possible and make it without stopping. I figured I had just enough fuel to get there, and that I’d put a little gas in her at the gas station located next to the Hotwired building.
As I started coming into Jonesboro, I was getting really nervous. The fuel gauge looked painfully low, but I was minutes away from being at the gas station. I tried to think if a closer option was available, but there wasn’t one. As I exited the interstate, the traffic light at the end of the ramp was green…PERFECT! I was able to cruise up to the pump. I put her in park, and she died before I could turn the key off. I smiled really big at this point. I made it! I filled her up, bought a green tea, and went back to crank her up. Instead of her cranking, I began to learn a valuable lesson. Once a diesel runs out of fuel, air gets in the lines. You can’t just simply start it back up. After a couple of cranks, I looked up and saw Jim Frigo, a local radio DJ I know casually from doing several remotes together over the years [I also went to the same high school as his daughter]. He offered to give me a jump, and I explained that it wasn’t a battery issue. Before he even left the gas station parking lot, two diesel mechanics walked over and offered to help. THIS is what I love about my hometown. Jim had no idea who I was when he first walked over, and I offered no explanation as to why I was in an ambulance, he just wanted to help. These two guys didn’t know me either, but they were eager to get me going again.
After a few shots of starting fluid and several attempts to get her running again, we determined it just wasn’t going to happen. Pandora’s Box needed a lot more work than what could be done on the 4th of July in a gas station parking lot. The two men (Randy and Duke) dropped the trailer they were pulling and quickly hooked up a chain to tow me into the Hotwired lot.
The Hotwired guys blew me away with their plans. I hadn’t asked much from them because I was asking them to either donate or do the work at very little cost. Hotwired is doing much more than I could have ever asked for. I can’t wait to show everyone what these guys are doing, and why I picked this crew to help us on this project.
But until then, I’ll see you where the river meets us.